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A former Hill staffer accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the office of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) was found guilty Tuesday.
A jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found Ngozi Pole guilty of five counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government property. He had schemed to defraud the Senate of more than $75,000 by issuing himself unauthorized bonuses and salary increases from 2003 to 2007 while he was Kennedy’s office manager, prosecutors said.
Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine, while the charge of theft of government property has a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $250,000 fine, according to the Justice Department. Pole’s sentencing is set for July 14.
Pole, who was responsible for submitting payroll information to the Senate Disbursing Office, repeatedly manipulated the paperwork to increase his salary, the prosecution showed. He hid his actions from the office’s chief of staff, to whom he reported only the amounts he was authorized.
“The defendant was greedy,” prosecutor Deborah Mayer said. “He wanted more, and so he took more.”
Defense attorney Rudolph Acree argued that Pole was carrying out orders to spend all the money allocated to the office when he increased his salary. With little guidance from his superiors, Pole was left to his own devices to get things done in the fast-paced Kennedy office. To spend down the budget, he also gave bonuses to other staffers and bought extra office equipment without approval from his bosses, Acree said.
“What Mr. Pole was doing was what he understood the case to be,” the defense attorney said. “There was no scheme, there was no attempting to hide.”
The wire fraud charges stemmed from Pole’s instructions to the Senate Disbursing Office to direct the Federal Reserve to deposit improper payments to his Senate Federal Credit Union account.
Congressional pay records maintained by LegiStorm indicate that Pole left Kennedy’s office in January 2007 and served as deputy chief of staff to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) until May 2007. Pole also campaigned for a seat on the Senate Federal Credit Union board in 2003.
Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.